The Alliance for Tourism Excellence (Exceltur) covers the different fields of the tourism sector and brings together the leading businesses. From your vantage point, how would you assess the changes in the tourism industry in 2019?
In the last assessment, which we made in October, we said that it would be difficult to beat the results we achieved in 2018, which had been quite unusual at a time when a kind of perfect storm blew favourably for Spain as a destination, with some competitor countries still experiencing difficulties in rebuilding their image. In 2019 we have seen some disparity in the results in Spain, depending on the type of company, sector and destination. We should avoid falling into the trap of judging results only by the total number of foreign tourists who visit us.
In the disparity of results I just mentioned, the trend was for better performance by urban destinations and major cities with differentiating aspects, not only Madrid and Barcelona. And yet there’s been a slowdown in performance by some of the main sun and beach holiday destinations, such as the Canary and Balearic Islands.
Do you find this disparity also between different tourism businesses?
Indeed. In some of these holiday destinations where there’s been a slow-down, some businesses are excelling in a remarkable way while others are lagging behind. Their fundamental differentiating aspect is their uniqueness, their capacity to differentiate and position their brand image, to distinguish them from other emerging Mediterranean countries that compete on price. Spanish sun and beach areas can’t beat them on price, so they need something distinctive, unique and experiential. In the Canaries and the Balearic Islands, there are businesses that have beaten the competition while others are experiencing major problems.
How has the tourism sector’s contribution to the Spanish economy evolved in 2019?
In October we forecasted that, for the second year running, it would be slower than 2018 and even more than we expected at the beginning of the year. So, tourism GDP growth in 2019 will be 1.4%, when that of the Spanish economy as a whole will be around 2%.
What can you tell us about the 10th Exceltur Tourism Leadership Forum, to be held before FITUR opens?
As there’s been a change in the trend in the tourism industry, which had been growing at very unsustainable rates in recent years, the Forum will focus on two major issues. On the one hand, how to achieve and manage more sustainable growth for the tourism industry, to avoid conflict with local communities and rejection by residents, with maximum respect and empathy, and creating quality employment. This calls for a new kind of governance and new channels for collaboration between the public and private sectors and the different social actors, to build models with greater capacity for sharing opinions about the future of some tourist destinations. In this respect, we will discuss the case of Amsterdam and there will be a discussion with the mayors of four of Spain’s main cities, as well as another discussion with three of the most emblematic tourist destinations in Spain. There will also be a panel discussion with four presidents of autonomous regions and several business leaders.
On the other hand, we will deal with how to speed up digital transformation in the tourism sector in order to reach the end tourist more directly, optimise processes, personalise experiences and get all the advantages that digitalisation provides, while opening up new opportunities for entrepreneurs and start-ups, in this evolution of the Spanish tourism model in which technology can contribute so much.